Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP)

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Zoom Talk: Helen Steward (Leeds)

Meeting ID: 985 3907 5272

17.11.2022 at 16:00 

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Laws Loosened: How to make Way for Freedom in a Law-Governed World


In this paper, I consider a number of different ways in which philosophers in recent years have attempted to offer conceptions of natural law which in various respects suggest that the grip of law on reality might be less tight than has been traditionally supposed. One such loosening is represented by the suggestion that many laws might be best thought of as probabilistic rather than deterministic. A second kind of loosening has been the admission that certain laws relevant to human behaviour might hold only ceteris paribus. Yet a third is the suggestion that all laws - including even fundamental physical ones – might hold only ceteris paribus (Cartwright, 1999). How, though, are these different suggestions related to one another? Which kinds of loosening might entail which other kinds? And which, if any, might be most promising as regards making room in the universe for free will? In this paper I shall try to suggest that the first and second strategies are far less useful than the third in making the kind of space which would be required to subserve the reality of free will; and that a fourth kind of loosening – compatible with but not entailing any of these other kinds - from laws as world-dictators to laws as world-constrainers might yet be more useful than any of the other three in this respect.